aggregating definitive insights delivering intelligent understanding generating quantitative understanding assembling quantitative futures composing contingent insights mapping the future assembling accurate predictions calculating probable understanding modeling quantitative insights generating definitive insights crowdsourcing quantitative forecasts delivering quantitative insights delivering quantitative futures delivering quantitative futures

Question

Metaculus Help: Spread the word

If you like Metaculus, tell your friends! Share this question via Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit.

Will humanity (essentially) run out of at least one element currently considered "under serious threat" by 2040?

In 2008, science fiction author, Robert Silverberg, penned a provocative web essay, The Death of Galium, that predicted that we would collectively run out of several essential, rare elements within a single decade. Per Silverberg:

The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc. Even copper is an endangered item, since worldwide demand for it is likely to exceed available supplies by the end of the present century.

Silverberg's dire fears have not (yet!) come to pass, but the American Chemical Society (ACS) has identified 44 elements that "face supply limitations in the coming years." Those considered by the ACS "under serious threat" over the next century include: silver, zinc, hafnium, gallium and helium.

It sounds serious. But not everyone is concerned. This counterpoint editorial from The Register, for instance, maintains that the galium shortage is a nothingburger:

We mine for aluminium by sticking bauxite into a Bayer Process plant, where we boil it in caustic soda. If you put the right doohicky on the side of this plant then you get the gallium out. It's at about 100ppm, 100 grammes per tonne of bauxite processed... there's around a 1,000-year supply of Ga in the bauxite that we already know that we'll process for the aluminium content... We simply don't have any meaningful shortage of these metals [worth] worrying about.

As a proxy for supply issues, we will use price. The question resolve positive if by beginning of 2040 any of the following "under serious threat" elements has a trackable commodities price that attains an inflation-adjusted price more than 10 times its price as of July 10, 2018, as measured by a reliable entity, like USGS. The elements in question are: He, Zn, Ga, Ge, As, Ag, In, Te and Hf.

{{qctrl.predictionString()}}

Metaculus help: Predicting

Predictions are the heart of Metaculus. Predicting is how you contribute to the wisdom of the crowd, and how you earn points and build up your personal Metaculus track record.

The basics of predicting are very simple: move the slider to best match the likelihood of the outcome, and click predict. You can predict as often as you want, and you're encouraged to change your mind when new information becomes available. With tachyons you'll even be able to go back in time and backdate your prediction to maximize your points.

The displayed score is split into current points and total points. Current points show how much your prediction is worth now, whereas total points show the combined worth of all of your predictions over the lifetime of the question. The scoring details are available on the FAQ.

Note: this question resolved before its original close time. All of your predictions came after the resolution, so you did not gain (or lose) any points for it.

Note: this question resolved before its original close time. You earned points up until the question resolution, but not afterwards.

This question is not yet open for predictions.

Thanks for predicting!

Your prediction has been recorded anonymously.

Want to track your predictions, earn points, and hone your forecasting skills? Create an account today!

Track your predictions
Continue exploring the site

Community Stats

Metaculus help: Community Stats

Use the community stats to get a better sense of the community consensus (or lack thereof) for this question. Sometimes people have wildly different ideas about the likely outcomes, and sometimes people are in close agreement. There are even times when the community seems very certain of uncertainty, like when everyone agrees that event is only 50% likely to happen.

When you make a prediction, check the community stats to see where you land. If your prediction is an outlier, might there be something you're overlooking that others have seen? Or do you have special insight that others are lacking? Either way, it might be a good idea to join the discussion in the comments.